A little caution to parents new to the forum.

<p>I would like to post some thoughts (and gather some of your opinions) that might be helpful to parents new to the college forum experience. </p>

<p>When I first discovered the various forums on college I was really happy to find these "communities." I had some pretty basic questions, which were answered very helpfully by the more experienced parents. (Thank you all!) </p>

<p>But I have found over the ensuing months that you can get way too wrapped up in other people's opinions, other parents' overwhelming urge to brag about their kids, other people's insecurities and control issues. These are clearly the minority of posts on here, but they are certainly present.</p>

<p>My greatest regret actually, is that I once posted some stats for my kid on line. Now I think - those aren't mine to post on the internet! I started to feel bad thinking about how my kid would feel if he thought I was engaged in discussing his future with total strangers. I know that sounds a little harsh - and I don't mean it that way at all - but there is a fine line for protecting your kid's privacy and his or her right to independence in the decision making process.</p>

<p>Also, it is very clear now that opinions about individual colleges are very personal and may or may not pertain to your kid's circumstances. I was initially soured on some schools because of things I had heard about them on line (not just on here...). Well, that is just the wrong way to investigate schools. </p>

<p>Anyway, do any other parents have similar feelings about this whole internet/college search thing?</p>

<p>I agree with you about being careful what you post about your kid. I try to do that, but she would probably object to some of the things that I have posted over the last several months. I also think that one of the most important things to remember about on-line forums is tact. I've seen more than one forum damaged or destroyed by flame wars, a few obnoxious posters, etc. We have moderators here, and that's a good thing. I like to think that I can ask a "stupid" question, or express an opinion without being put down (I'm a sensitive guy! ;) ). There are lots of people here with valuable information, and they themselves are very precious resources for the rest of us. I'm very grateful to them.</p>

<p>I agree with the need for tact, and I would like to add that I get information from CC that I can't find elsewhere (which may reflect my limitations...it could be out there somewhere).</p>

<p>I also find that as we move through the college application process, some threads change from "not interesting" to "very interesting" as I learn more, or as the kid's interests change.</p>

<p>So while avoiding gettting wrapped up in the opinions of others is sound advice, it can also be very useful to be exposed to the opinions of others, even if they are wrong. Maybe especially if they are wrong...</p>

<p>Agree with you both. I think the people who will get the most out of this forum are those who are strong enough to stand firm in their beliefs, based on their own independent research. Come here and take away the tidbits, enjoy the conversations and vent when you feel the need. </p>

<p>I noticed that some of the parents get very offended when a negative opinion is expressed about the school chosen by their child. I recall posting my son's feelings about certain schools we were visiting and the immediate backlash from some parents....some were somewhat insulting as though if my son didin't like the particular school, it's because there's something deficient in him and his abilities and questioning his ability to make educated decisions. After a few of those, I got the hint and stopped posting his impressions for fear of insulting someone.</p>

<p>I've also been vague about stats.....giving only ranges where needed and not posting specifics about more revealing ECs. But, that's now because son cares. He doesn't. Frankly, I avoid specific stats because i don't think it's necessary or helpful to anyone. </p>

<p>Sometimes I post "not so flattering" stuff on purpose. I'm trying to make this forum more comfortable for others who are afraid to post because their kid doesn't match the super-achievers. When I first started coming ot this forum I was thrown for a loop because I felt like my son must be the only kid who scored below 1400 on his SATs and wasn't trying to cure cancer, sing on broadway (in Japanese) and build houses for the homeless...all at once. It really took a while before I realized that many of the CC parents have unusally gifted kids and this was not the place to try to size-up the competition. Such kids are not my son's competition...they are the super achievers who fall into the top 10% area. And, after much research and the help of the very well-informed parents here, I realize that my son (normal as he appears) is way ahead of the majority of his peers. I hope some of the lurkers on CC realize that and come out to join parents like me. Remember the "conversation in my home" thread? There was a point to that.....</p>

<p>Back to the topic.......I don't think the revelation of info is as much of a big deal as some think it is.....unless you talk about sensitive issues like drugs, sex, serious problems in school, behavior issues, etc. And, you definitely shouldn't reveal info about other people and their children (friends, classmates, etc). Well, I guess I already broke this rule by revealing where son's GF is applying.....so I apologize to her parents if they're on here. Things like that shouldn't be revealed about others.</p>

<p>I have seen very few posts by parents which would allow identification of their offspring, which makes posting of things like test scores less problematic. Of course, if your child has won some very specific honor that would make it easy to identify them, it's better not to post that, and parents generally don't. On this theme, a year or so ago, a couple of kids who have met my son were able to figure out that he was connected to me from some of my posts. It didn't cause any problems at all; basically they just said "Hi!" One of them said they didn't think my son would find enough like-minded people at a particular college I said he was interested in. That was actually a helpful comment, and my son has seem reached the same conclusion. But I've tried to be more careful since then to respect his privacy.</p>

<p>I look at the impressions posted of particular colleges as being similar to Amazon book reviews. The opinions expressed are just that - opinions. There's usually some variety to the opinions in any given thread, so you can simply take what you want to from them. Sometimes I think a poster will take a post as being in opposition to their own, when it is just meant to contribute another idea. That's just part of the limitations of this type of communication. But overall, I don't think any particular "warnings" are in order.</p>

<p>This forum can be very useful for pointing people in the right direction and opening up new ideas. But unless the individual has provided some background information you don't know who they are or where they've gained their expertise. Individuals provide information or opinions with such authority that convinces people of the correctness of the info. Unless you know the background you don't know how reliable the information is. It is important to realize that in many cases people are expressing their opinion and that is all. This is particularly true on the admissions and what are my chances forum. I wish more people would provide background information so that I know if the person has good information. doctorjohn is a college administrator so I tend to listen to what he has to say, but I don't know about most.
I think this is particularly important for students to realize. They post their essays on the forum and get back all sorts of responses. They don't know the background of the response.
I think sharing general data about your son or daughter can be useful. It allows others to evaluate whether their situation applies to you.
This is a useful forum, but like anything on the internet, know your source.</p>

<p>biowarthmom raises a good point about essays. I'm really surprised that so many kids post their essays on here. It surprises me for a couple of reasons:</p>

<li>college admission is a competitive situation. In order to get in, you have to take a spot from 4,5, 6 other people.....you are competing with them. Why tip your hand on something as critical as the essay. </li>
<li>you announe to the world that your essay has been edited by many, many people in a public forum. I don't think that paints your essay as being as authentic as it should.</li>

<p>Sometimes you do need to really think about information that is posted. I had stumbled across someone's child on another website inadvertantly based on what would have seemed like "untraceable" information. I did contact the parent before contacting the child (to ask questions related to a specific college) because I realized that the child probably wouldn't be too happy to know that an innocent statement allowed someone to recognize them. Needless to say, out of respect for both, I did not ask my questions of the student (parent, your secret's safe with me :) ). But it just goes to show that you never know.</p>

<p>Bioearthmom, Absolutely right! </p>

<p>One of the reasons I started researching schools so intensively is that it just bugged me to see some of the incredibly bogus information out there. What drives me crazy is that people come to boards like this, ask a question and then accept as the gospel truth any answer they receive...without ever going right to the source, the college's own web site or admissions office. </p>

<p>Even if you know the poster, and trust them, you should ALWAYS do your own follow up research and make your own decisions. No one is correct 100% of the time, as I've certainly proven time and time again myself here on CC (LOL!)</p>

<p>I, for one, have often written openly about my children's SAT scores, personal opinions about their schools, etc. I know they realize that this is just "MOM" and her need to vent and sort things out. All parents have their concerns.. and some are more willing to share than others. I don't see it as a slander against your child if you want to share some personal concerns you have about them. I see these postings as an opportunity to get some relief and/or perspective on the never-ending responsibilities one has as a parent..and perhaps get a chuckle now and then. If someone out there goes to the length of finding out whose someone's child is, that person needs to get a life! And is that person in any way attempting to harm your child? Let's hope not. Let us hope there is not some COLLEGE DREAM breaker out there lurking in the shadows ready to doom yur child to a lifetime of boredom or disillusionment in some university or college that wan't a good "fit" because he or she heeded a recommendation from some ill-willed parent who had his facts all wrong! (Catch my drift??) A forum is a forum..it is an opportunity to express one's beliefs, opinions, concerns, and if that needs to include SAT scores or such to support one's opinion than so be it. God bless America!</p>

<p>Carolyn, I agree wholeheartedly! I know that I've been guilty in the (not so distant) past of giving advice that sounded pretty certain based on what I'd read in just a few resources. Of course I try to remember (not always successfully) that my situation is <em>very</em> different from most of the students here and that what I know may only apply to my situation.</p>

<p>It is difficult to give advice based on what you've learned and not sound like an "expert". I think that it is a good idea for every poster to take what they learn here with a grain of salt and do their own research. I know that I've received some very good information from here, and even the info that wasn't completely accurate provided me with an "outline" for my own research.</p>

<p>I think that most of us do not consider ourselves experts but are simply sharing things based on our own frame of reference or how the situation played out in our homes. Often times we operate in a vacuum so for me, I have learned things that I never even considered when going through the college process with my daughter.</p>

<p>I think that the exchange of experiences helps people to put together their list of questions to asks and things to consider. How many times have we said if I knew then what i know now. So think of it as knowing now without having to live through the then because someone else already has. I have found that the experiences of the parents and students ho have been gracious enough to talk about them publicly to a bunch of virtual stangers (thanks so much for sharing) keeps one from re-inventing the wheel and from going insane (as insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome).</p>

<p>It's always helpful when opinions and personal experiences are expressed and valued as such. Trouble is, sometimes people express a negative view of a school, or an approach to parenting, in a very absolute way: "The students there are all _<strong><em>" or "Parents should never _</em></strong>" (fill in the blanks). No wonder, then, that others who have had different experiences get upset. I find the most valuable things I read on these sites are people's personal experiences, when they are presented that way. There is always room for other experiences, which is what makes the world go round.</p>

<p>A Williams prof wrote a piece on Jacques Derrida, who died recently, in today's NY Times; it relates to this topic: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/14/opinion/14taylor.html?oref=login%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/14/opinion/14taylor.html?oref=login&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>The huge benefit available here is that parents unfamiliar with the admissions process and with inadequate high school counseling can get loads of info and advice. My own motivation in helping launch CC in general and this community in particular was driven by our family's first effort to navigate through the college process - our HS sent virtually no students to elite schools, and families were on their own. At the time we were in that process, even some of the books we take for granted today weren't available.</p>

<p>There are certainly a few pitfalls:</p>

<p>Pitfall #1 - Revealing too much. Everyone loves to brag about their kids, but please don't post info that identifies them (like saying your kid won the 2004 Albert Finklestein Mathematics Prize) - it's too easy to track down names, schools, etc. Posting essays is a bad idea, too, due to the possibility of copying.</p>

<p>Pitfall #2 - Getting hung up on the elite colleges that get so much discussion here. The Ivies are great schools with unique personalities, but much of the reason they get so much attention in the forums is because admission insanely competitive. There are many great schools, and it's likely that some non-ultra-competitive schools could be better fits for a given student.</p>

<p>Pitfall #3 - Getting discouraged by reading posts from near-perfect students. Reading posts from kids (or their parents) who have 1600 SATs and 4.0 GPAs and are still incredibly anxious about their admissions prospects can be distressing to parents of more normal kids. Some of these posters may really have those stats, but don't focus on them - your student has unique characteristics, and if he/she applies to an appropriate selection of schools there will be good news at acceptance time. Our membership is hardly a statistically representative sample of all college-bound students, so don't worry if it seems like everyone here has better stats - that's not reality.</p>

<p>One of the rewarding aspects of creating a community like this is seeing parents who arrived with questions of their own developing into great resources for other parents and students. Kudos to all the parents who take the time to share their knowledge and wisdom with those who aren't as far down the learning curve!</p>

<p>This is a very useful forum and I gain new insights all the time. But when it comes to hard information about admission standards and expectations, people need to go to the source. Naively I asked a question concerning my daughters lack of a foreign language and how that would effect her chances of getting into an academically challenging program. The response was overwhelmingly negative--she'd need to go to community college, none of the 'good' colleges would look at her, how could I have allowed this to happen. I was in panic mood trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. Once I talked to a few schools and found out that even some schools that "require" a foreign language will look at the total picture, not just say 'reject', things calmed down.<br>
So it is important to verify information, but sharing the experience and helping others find the right direction is wonderful.</p>

<p>I got thinking about the whole idea of posting information (such as stats), confident that it is "anonymous" and I guess my feeling is that if my child was talking about me (giving, let's say personal information - perhaps my salary, or my measurements, or talking about my personal habits or something) on a forum I would feel a little bad - even if it were "anonymous." That is just what gave me a little "forum regret." It's not a BIG deal, it's just something I wish I had thought about sooner that's all, hence the warning.</p>

<p>So true, everybody's comments on taking opinions about schools into account. They are what they are I guess. When you see a really consistent theme I guess they mean more than others. But to have one or two nasty reviews turn you dead set against a school (and I know this has happened), well, that does seem unfair.</p>

<p>Agree that it is easy to post too much info that can identify your kid or you (pitfall #1 above). It is amazing what one can google up nowadays based on some random tidbit of info. However, I have noticed in the past that the moderators have been able to erase stuff that is too revealing, so I guess if you post something and than realize it is too much info, you can ask them to remove it.</p>

<p>I think what we need to remember is, this is an anonymous forum and while after time, there are likely to be some posters whose opinion is highly valued and whose experiences you can learn from, we ( the royal we) are just parents for the most part, posting about what has and hasn't been helpful for us. While I think most give much more thoughtful comments than folks might at say , a barbeque, it should be used as a starting place for additional research of your own, not the deciding factor.
I have found it most useful to use "as" an anonymous forum, when I have had a difficult situation, that I don't necessarily want to share with people who may or may not have helpful solutions in real life, but I want additional feedback. I have allowed more information than I probably now feel comfortable with, but that is mostly cause the information stays floating around there for so long, longer than I think I realized. Something to keep in mind.</p>

<p>A related topic that's been on my mind is posting adverse information about a particular school. Especially the school (college) that your child attends. Call me paranoid. In the not so distant past, I've posted about the social atmosphere at my D's school. Nothing too negative, but the school might not particularly appreciate it. What if I wanted to share something even more delicate? I wouldn't post it here. I might share it privately with another CCer by email. But it would not be hard for anyone to do a search for "XYZ college" and see everything anyone had written about it, and then to read everything ABdad has said, and to deduce who ABchild is. I hope everyone has more of life than that, but we know that not everyone does, don't we? Like I said, call me paranoid.</p>

<p>CLdad, I think this raises another point. I've noticed that once a child goes off to a particular school, many parents tend to get their dander WAY up if anyone dares to say anything the least bit negative about the school. I guess it's only natural to want to defend the place where you're sending all those big tuition checks, but it kind of kills the free flow of information and exchange of ideas. Again, doing your own research and due dilligence after what you read here is always necessary.</p>